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Cancer survivor says: ‘Don’t ignore skin cancer concerns, speak to your GP’

12th May 2021

71-year-old Brian from Lancashire noticed a couple of new itchy spots on his back, so he contacted his GP with his concerns. He was then quickly referred to the hospital for further investigations.

From April 2020 – February 2021 compared to the previous year, urgent skin cancer referrals in Lancashire and South Cumbria dropped by 14%. If this continues, more people will be diagnosed later – resulting in a lower chance of survival. Finding and treating skin cancer at an early stage saves lives.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, cancer services have remained a priority for the NHS. Investigations, diagnosis, and treatment are continuing, and local teams are working hard to ensure that the NHS is there to see patients safely.

Brian said:

“I noticed three new itchy crusty spots on my back that didn’t go away after a month or so. Over a year ago I had Basal Cell Carcinomas (the most common form of skin cancer), so I knew what signs to look out for and thought this could potentially be a sign of cancer. I asked my wife to take a photo of the spots and that is when I decided to contact my GP with my concerns. I shared a photo of the spots with my GP which was really easy to do, and they quickly referred me to the hospital for an urgent consultation. I had a biopsy, and the results came back to say that I had melanoma (a form of skin cancer that can grow quickly and needs to be treated early) within weeks I had an operation to remove the cancer. During my diagnosis and treatment, I struggled with my mental health, but I had some great counselling support which really helped me to cope. Since receiving the all-clear, I am now in good health and pleased to say I have put my gardening gloves back on. I now go for an examination every 3 months with the specialist nurse team at Royal Preston Hospital who check how I’m doing mentally and physically – they have been so amazing and I’m so grateful for all they do! I’m so glad I spoke to my GP when I did, and we caught my cancer before it had spread. I would encourage anyone with possible signs and symptoms of cancer to contact their GP right away. Early diagnosis and treatment could save your life.”

Dr Neil Smith, local GP and Primary Care Director for Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance said:

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. This month marks Skin Cancer Awareness Month a great opportunity to talk about the signs and symptoms of this form of cancer. Common symptoms include a sore, lump, spot or an area of skin that doesn’t heal within 4 weeks, or that looks unusual, hurts, itches, bleeds, crusts or scabs. A malignant melanoma is a serious type of skin cancer that can occur in a new mole or a change in an existing mole. Look out for a mole that changes shape, size, colour or becomes itchy or bleeds. If you notice anything unusual for you, or you have concerns about possible signs and symptoms of cancer – you should speak to your GP. It’s probably nothing serious, but it’s important to get checked out because early diagnosis makes cancer more treatable. Video consultations and emailing photos from your smartphone make it even easier for you to share your concerns with your GP from the comfort of your home. If you do need a face-to-face appointment your GP is there to see you safely. GPs like me are here to help you. Let’s talk cancer.”

Watch Dr Neil Smith’s signs and symptoms of malignant melanoma cancer video:

Video Transcript

Hello, my name is Neil Smith, I am a GP, and I am really interested in early diagnosis of cancer. So let's talk about cancer, and today I'd like to talk about malignant melanomas. That's a form of skin cancer.

It's actually the fifth most common cancer in the UK. I've come outside today, there is a message that when are out in the sun, we need to protect our skin, but also the warmer weather gives an opportunity to look and check over our mole. Now, loads of people have got moles like me, and the vast majority of those are benign ,but the things to look out for and the things I would be worried about is if you had a new sudden mole, or a change in an existing mole, and what are those changes? Well, It could be a change in the size of the mole, so if the mole is getting bigger, particularly if it's bigger than 7mm.

It could be a change in the colour of the mole, if the mole, for example, is going some irregular colours, some blacks, some browns and some pinks, and different shades of that.

It could be a change in the border of the mole. So for example, the border becoming asymmetrical, or irregular, or jagged.

And what about a change in the sensation? A mole that becomes itching can be a problem. And finally, anything else that doesn't look or feel right to you, like a mole becoming crusting, or inflamed, or oozing, or perhaps bleeding, and if you do get any of those changes, don't hesitate, please contact your GP, people like me want to know, we are here to help you. In the vast majority of cases, that will be normal, but it's best to get it checked out.

The sooner you diagnose skin cancers,  especially malignant melanomas, the better the outcome, the easier it is to treat.

Early diagnosis of cancer saves lives.